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Dark Souls infamously advertised itself with the tagline “Prepare To Die,” smartly showcasing the difficulty of the game. While Dark Souls 2 had no official tagline, we'd like to think of it as “Prepare To Throw Your Controller In Anger Because This Game Is That Difficult.” Dark Souls 2 is a third-person role-playing action game that, contrary to the worries of its fans, is just as difficult as previous games in the series.

That's not to say the game is so difficult it's unfair; no, it's quite the opposite. Dark Souls 2 is an action game that doesn't hesitate to throw everything at you at all times. Devious traps, tons of enemies at once, bosses that can kill you in one hit: It's all here. However, these deaths will never be due to unfairness (no matter how one-sided the game comes off as) but rather, your own skill level. All traps can be avoided, you'll learn enemy patterns and how to pick them off one-by-one, and every boss can be defeated without being hit. Dark Souls 2 is a game you'll learn via repetition and learning patterns, with each life taking you a bit further into the abyss. Previous challenges become cakewalks while new challenges slaughter you almost instantly: The Dark Souls 2 cycle of life, as it were. Dark Souls 2 never holds your hand, so if you're a gamer who gets frustrated easily when repeating large stretches of levels or needs clarification on your objectives at all times, this is a game you'll most likely need to skip.

Despite being the sequel to Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2 has more in common with Demon's Souls in terms of mechanics. The leveling up system, the level structure, and how statistics work are all throwbacks to From Software's first game in the series. Dark Souls 2 is a game of options, as well, as at least 60% of the game is optional. The game drops you in with one objective and lets you figure out the best way to accomplish it, with multiple paths open to pursue at any given time. At first, it will be overwhelming, as the game doesn't really explain any of its mechanics or goals to you, but the game shines in experimentation and often invites you to participate in it.

While Dark Souls 2 is primarily a single player game, it includes the trademark multiplayer the series is now known for. During gameplay, other players can “invade” your game as a red phantom enemy and kill you, causing you to lose all your souls (currency) and progress. Seeing the message that you're being invaded will instantly cause your stomach to start knotting up, as you never know what skills, weapons and abilities the invading player possesses. While you can just disconnect your console from the Internet to avoid getting invaded, you're missing out on one of the key features of the series. In Dark Souls 2, entire areas are devoted to player vs. player combat and you'll suddenly find yourself sucked into another player's “world” as he looks to defend his turf.

One area where Dark Souls 2 falters is in its graphics. The early screenshots, video and even the beta displayed an amazing lighting engine that truly brought out the details of the game. The final product, however, looks noticeably worse than previous entries in the series outside of a few areas near the end of the game (the Dragon Aerie, in particular, looks stunning). From Software stated that they sacrificed the graphical prowess shown in earlier builds of the game so that it can keep a steady framerate, and in this case gameplay over graphics was the way to go.

In an age where most games take roughly five hours to finish, Dark Souls 2 packs in at least 50 to 60 hours of content for an average player for your first playthrough. The game features a New Game Plus feature that not only increases the damage of the enemies, but gives them new attacks and even adds new, stronger enemies to all areas of the game. It's definitely worth playing through a second time.

Dark Souls 2 is currently available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with a PC version coming a few months after. If you're tired of games holding your hand and you miss the feeling of accomplishment in your video games, Dark Souls 2 is what you've been missing in your gaming life.

tags xbox-360PS3

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